Giant’s Dream: A healing journey through Nitassinan

‘Although it begins as a simple travel narrative, this book quickly becomes much more.’

In February 2009, Giant (Michel) Andrew, inspired by a dream of his deceased grandfather, set out to travel by foot from Sheshatshiu to Natuashish to raise money and awareness for diabetes, a common disease among the Innu people. Giant’s Dream: A healing journey through Nitassinan is a book about this young Innu man’s journey, on snowshoes, towing supplies on a toboggan, across 400 kilometres of Labrador wilderness.

Juxtaposed with the story of Giant’s journey is the story of the Innu people’s struggles over the past century, as they are essentially forcibly assimilated into a settled existence by a European culture that neither understood nor cared to understand the Innu way of life. The author (Nikashant Antane, Giant’s uncle) blames this assimilation for many of the social and medical problems experienced by the Innu. It has separated the Innu from their traditional culture, skills, and diet, and as a people they have not adapted well.

Nor, as a people, should they. After all, Giant intended his journey to demonstrate that the traditional Innu lifestyle, which depends on skills such as hunting and involved large amounts of physical activity (like the journey he is undertaking) is both healthy and rewarding. It is a way of life that has largely been forgotten and is in danger of being lost completely.

“This book is full of great shots, showing not just Giant on his journey, but also the great beauty of Labrador and its people.”

Although I’m not particularly fond of the book’s awkward, floppy format, it is a good format for showcasing one of the book’s great strengths: its photographs. This book is full of great shots, showing not just Giant on his journey, but also the great beauty of Labrador and its people. They capture the struggles and triumphs of everybody who became involved in this trip, and the amount of support Giant received is inspiring. It surprised both him and his uncle, who was acting as his PR manager for the trip and had to take vacation time to deal with the torrent of inquiries.

The book would have benefited from better editing. There are several errors, including one example where NATO is said to stand for “North Atlantic Peace Organization” (p. 35). The author of the foreword (Camille Fouillard) also stated “For years the Innu had already been the brunt of 6,500 low-level test flights,” when surely she meant the Innu have borne the brunt.

These flaws are minor, however. Although it begins as a simple travel narrative, this book quickly becomes much more. It explores the lives and struggles of the Innu people, the strength that is to be found in family, and the personal demons that Giant, like many young Innu, face on his journey. It is also, unexpectedly, a love story, and throughout this thought-provoking and heartfelt book it is the love for Nitassinan (“Our Homeland”) and the people he encounters that makes Giant’s Dream so memorable.

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